When Liberty Frye wakes up on her eleventh birthday, nothing about it feels particularly celebratory. As if being a witch in training isn’t confusing enough, her mother’s mysterious illness has grown worse overnight and her best-friend-turned-foster-sister Ginny is driving her crazy.
Then there’s the matter of Uncle Frank’s new invention that he has brought to her surprise party. When Libby’s freaky powers accidentally activate it, she and her unsuspecting birthday party guests are transported into an ocean of darkness. Literally. Soon, they’re running – or rather, sailing – for their lives, chasing after clues while dodging angry islanders and makeshift spells gone awry.
To save herself and everyone she cares about, Libby knows she must confront the dark forces bent on determining their fate. But what she doesn’t know is … how?
The Liberté sets sail on Libby’s birthday, with Ginny, Sal, Esmerelda, Buttercup, and Uncle Frank aboard. Ginny, Libby’s foster sister, is driving her absolutely nuts. She’s perfect. Her perfections points out all the ways Libby is wrong. After learning she is a witch – and a very powerful one – nothing has been right since. Uncle Frank is so excited about his new invention that he brings it along to the party. All is good and well until Libby’s magical powers set something askew with Uncle Frank’s invention…and lands them in the South Pacific. In 1871! Libby and Ginny must work together to battle pirates and get back to present day – and they find some unsuspecting friends along the way.
Libby – an 11 year old witch; struggling with her new foster sister situation
Ginny – Libby’s foster sister; she is acting
Uncle Frank – Libby’s scientist uncle
Sal McCool – Uncle Frank’s war buddy
Esmerelda – a robot who-speaks-like-this
Buttercup – Libby’s pet goose
Kai – a not-so British boy
But the worst thing of all was that Ginny was better at being normal…and there was nothing Libby could change about that. Being a witch really stank sometimes.
Who knew turning eleven could be so depressing?
“I-do-declare-you-there! Big-bellied-man-with-the-hamburger! And-you! Lady-with-too-much-makeup!”
“We went through a wormhole and traveled through time!”
There was a long pause.
“I think you’ve got a concussion after all,” Ginny said after another moment. “Or maybe it’s your blood sugar. Have you been tested for diabetes?”
“I’m not squeaking, Ginny; I’m speaking their language!”
For one full minute, there was utter silence. Then Ginny said, “Get yourself together! We don’t have time for this!”
The Highs and Lows
- The Bad Omen. The book starts off talking about a bad omen. Libby always wears her top hat on her birthday, and she has forgotten it. Is that a sign of everything else to come?
- Ginny vs. Libby. Libby sees herself as not normal. She doesn’t realize most of it is because she’s a witch – and doesn’t know how to use her powers. Ginny, on the other hand, is the perfect daughter you could ask for. She’s polite and charming and does everything right – everything that Libby does wrong. Grown ups like Ginny. What Libby fails to realize is it isn’t a Ginny vs. Libby contest, it is a Ginny vs. Foster Care battle. In the end, Libby realizes this and things between them are good.
- Historical Aspect. Despite being an MG book, Libby’s pirating adventure does touch on historical aspects of “blackbirding” and slave trade. Although I am unfamiliar with slave trade out of the South Pacific, this was a very prevalent trade between the African coast, Caribbean, and the colonies. There is a true aspect of this horrible practice that is revealed – and it could cost Libby and her friends their lives.
- Uncle Frank. He’s so cute for a little scientist uncle. He makes me think of Doc from Back to the Future. I was waiting for him to say “Great Scott!” but it never came. However, he does take the proactive approach to a (misconstrued and misplaced) coming-of-age conversation with Libby. It was slightly mortifying, and Libby wanted to crawl through albatross poop to end the conversation. However, Uncle Frank is a pretty great uncle and a quirky character.
- Talking to Rats. Yes, Libby has the ability to talk to the rats aboard the pirate ship. Sir Jaspar and his gang of (un)merry men help Libby and Ginny out in a bind. Literally.
- The Pirates. They are down and dirty rotten. Esmerelda surprises Captain Hayes with a slight life story, and he learns he will meet an untimely death…after escaping from prison a few times. There are several different pirate characters, and they are all bad news. For a while I was really worried if they’d even make it away from the pirates, let alone back to present day.
The pacing held me back on this one. I couldn’t move past a part for the longest time, and finally had to force myself to. I felt I had no idea what was going on with the characters. At times I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, which I chalk up to not having read the first book. I think the first book in the series established a lot of the character relationships and the backstory.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
Although I feel it was important that this book delved into the human trafficking of the 1800s – better known as slavery – I struggled to find memorable moments in this book. I think the pacing killed it for me. If the series sparked interest in your or your child, I would skip.
J.L. McCreedy first learned a love of writing (and developed an incurable condition of wanderlust) while growing up in Southeast Asiaas the child of missionaries. She holds a B.A. in English and a law degree, freelances as a writer and consultant for charitable organizations and, whenever possible, drags her splendid husband across the globe on ill-planned, shoestring adventures.
Books by J.L. McCreedy:
Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen (Book 1)
Liberty Frye and the Sails of Fate (Book 2)
The Orphan of Torundi